The 2009 LTER All Scientists Meeting held at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado from September 13-17, 2009 was, by all accounts, a very successful meeting following previous meetings held there in 1990, 1993 and 2006. The Program Committee, working with the LTER Network Office (LNO), created a program that clearly resulted in an exciting and productive meeting.
Logistics for the meeting were handled by the LNO in collaboration with The Schneider Group, a company specializing in meeting organization. There were pre-ASM meetings for information managers, graduate students, education representatives, international attendees, and the LTER Executive Board.
Six plenary presentations on LTER science and research were given by Phil Robertson, Jim Collins, Dave Schimel, Bill Clark, Laura Ogden, and Carol Brewer, as well as evening presentations on the pre-history and future of LTER (Dave Coleman and Henry Gholz).
However, the most important aspects of the meeting were the discussions of research and planning for future activities. These took place in over 75 working group meetings in seven working group sessions, producing a variety of products and 29 requests for follow-on activities.
Adding to the working group sessions were over 400 poster presentations held during four evening mixers in a large new meeting hall at the YMCA. J. Megan Waltz (KBS) won first prize in the student poster contest, with honorable mention going to Rebecca Hewitt (BNZ), Julia La Roche (ARC), Ashley Keiser (CWT), Robert Stewart (PIE), and Marko Spasojevic (NWT).
Wade Sheldon (GCE), won the photo contest for both the "Elk" and "non-Elk" categories while Mike Stukel (CCE), John Bain (VCR), Brian Voigt (BES), won the respective "LTER Scientists", "Scenery", "Silly" photo categories. Don Henshaw (AND) was the winner of the ASM trivia contest.
In addition to the many positive comments by meeting attendees, very useful information came from the post-ASM survey. Eighty-four percent of the attendees thought the meeting was either excellent or very good while nobody thought it was "poor". Nobody indicated they were dissatisfied with LNO responses to requests.
Networking opportunities are a critical component to the success of the ASM. To that end, respondents were asked to respond to various activities designed to enhance the networking experience. Attendees were satisfied with the opening mixer (84%), poster session space (88%), local attractions (84%), and poster session length (84%), while slightly less were satisfied with the main plenary speakers (70%) and the mixer entertainment (52%). Although a number of people didn't like the YMCA food, they did like the beer selected by the LNO for the mixers!
Many factors were rated in importance with respect to participants' decision to attend the meeting. Workshop content (51%), networking opportunities (82%), availability of LNO support to attend ASM (42%), and meeting with peers of similar expertise (75%) were rated extremely important factors in the decision to attend, while the poster sessions (58%), social activities (52%), and ASM location (53%) rated important. Not important in the decision to attend the ASM were the local attractions (48%). Finally, 51% of the respondents said they would like to see the ASM return to the YMCA of the Rockies (in 2012, while 60% would prefer the month of September for the meeting.
Looking forward to the next ASM, some modifications in the meeting organization will be considered to improve on the future ASM experience.
The post-ASM survey showed that people prefer the meeting in September, although one week later would help with students and scientists just starting a semester.
The plenary presentations could be shortened to permit more time for working group meetings and free time.
There could be at least one free afternoon or time before dinner for a break to permit ad hoc discussions, or time to enjoy local attractions in the area and perhaps get into town for a good meal.
The mixer and poster sessions could go later in the evening even if the refreshments and snacks have to be cleaned up earlier since participants did not seem to like the earlier closing time of the poster session in the 2009 meeting.
The YMCA seems to know how to make good pizza, as noted by people at the opening mixer, so perhaps some improvements in the food can be made.
Since it is difficult for the LNO to prepare and assist with meetings held prior to the ASM while also preparing the main event, additional meetings held in conjunction with the ASM could be held as "follow-on" meetings rather than the "pre-meeting" events.
Although the YMCA in Estes Park seems to be a preferred venue for ASM, all of these plans will be considered within recommendations coming from the LTER Science Council and Executive Board as planning for the 2012 meeting continues.